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Footwear Suggestions? Other gear?

First-time rider here. I have a trekfx2 hybrid bike with just normal pedals. I ride it very often for pretty good distances, but obviously nothing like RAGBRAI before. I ride more for recreation rather than competition, so I have never really had any “serious” gear or footwear. I was originally planning on just buying some cages for my pedals and wearing tennis shoes for the ride. However, I have been told by some that I NEED cycling or clipless shoes. Since RAGBRAI will probably be my only serious long ride each year, I don’t really want to invest a lot of money into gear and footwear. But I will do what I have to in order to not have a horrible week!

Does anyone have any suggestions for footwear or pedal situations? I have heard a lot about sandals and things like that. Is there a non-clipless shoe that is more suited for bike riding?

Also, if there are any other gear suggestions, please let me know of those! Thank you!

31 Replies

Joe Chavis, March 12, 2019 at 8:38 am

You seem to have received great advice on the shoe selection options.
Good info from an informed and helpful group. Only thing I did notice, the reason for clipping in – using today’s cleat and cleat locking pedal style system is that in theory: the rider also ‘pulls’ up as well as pushes down while pedaling, therefore, adding more power to ones pedal stroke. I am also and old(er) rider. I have been practicing this technique for many moons. Sometimes I think I do ok, the others, I feel as if I might as well be flat pedaling with sneakers and just stomping.


T. Gap Woo, March 12, 2019 at 10:13 am

I’ve ridden Ragbrai since 2013, using only standard tennis shoes with absolutely no problems.

Here’s the cycle of my shoes. Sorry about the pun. I know it’s bad, but I’m full of it (did I just say that??).

At the start of the school year, before I retired from teaching, I bought a comfortable pair of tennis shoes. I broke them in all school year and wore them while indoor training in the winter. When the weather broke, I wore them riding outdoors. By the time Ragbrai rolled around, they were comfortable inside the shoe and the soles were worn to match my stride pattern. I had no hot spots or any other problems.

After Ragbrai ended, Mrs Woo used to tease me that I “Ragbrai’ed another pair of shoes to death.” The soles were thin and almost holey. The uppers were stained with Mississippi River mud. They were only suitable for doing yard work around the house for the rest of the summer and fall. When school was ready to start again, the cycle continued (Ouch! I did it again. Sorry about that.).

Do I worry that I’m not getting 100% efficiency with each pedal stroke, losing the benefit of the upstroke from clip-ins and suffering the
consequences of energy absorption from the padded insoles? Heck no. I figure the extra energy expended leads to greater cardiovascular and weight loss benefits. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Bottom line: find what works best for you and go for it. After all, it’s your Ragbrai. Ride it the way you like!

See you along the I-O-Way in July.


Joe Chavis, March 12, 2019 at 11:10 am

Well stated T GapWoo. And by no means….was I implying that my pedal stroke is any bit the gooder clipped, strapped, or flat – one way or the other.


Heidi S, March 12, 2019 at 7:31 pm

I rode last year with my hybrid bike and Keen sandals. that combination totally worked for me. the shoes have a sort of stiff sole, your toes are protected, and your feet can BREATHE!!!! If I ride again this year, I’ll happily wear my Keens again!


Bikingaddict, March 12, 2019 at 10:20 pm

Since everybody has an opinion – I’ll throw mine out there too. I think that standard tennis shoes are a bit too soft-soled for a week of pedaling and will likely lead to foot pain. If you want to stick with your standard platform pedals, I’d recommend something with a stiffer sole – there are a number of companies that make cycling-specific shoes for platform pedals, or maybe one of the stiffer “skater” shoes.

But my real recommendation would be to go with a mountain bike shoe and SPD(mountain) pedals. My main reason is that it will make riding up hills so much easier. You may not even know why or realize you’re doing it, but the efficiency increase will make you so much happier at the end of the day. The Shimano M424 pedal is a good choice because it can be ridden with both cycling shoes and street shoes. For shoes – you really need to try them on to make sure they’re comfortable, but make sure you can walk around comfortably in them.

The toe strap idea is, in my opinion, a really bad idea for RAGBRAI. There are too many times that you need to get your feet free/down quickly to have your feet strapped onto the pedals.


bugs11, March 13, 2019 at 3:21 pm

You don’t need clipless shoes to ride RAGBRAI or ride anywhere else for that matter. Last year I used a pair of well broken in running shoes. They were so well broke in that the liner fell out or disintegrated (can’t remember). I stuck some ski boot footbeds I had laying around in those running shoes and that really stiffened them up. They fit my feet like a glove and I never had any foot issues, even on century days. The circa 1978 Atom 440 pedals on my OEM 1978 Motobecane never gave me any problems either. I say train with what you have and adjust as necessary.


Larry Klaaren, March 13, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Anything works if that is the way you have been riding.
The saving grace of RAGBRAI, in a lot of ways, is that almost everybody takes at least twice as long to ride the distance as if you went the same distance on a daily ride. So it amounts to five or six shorter rides a day, you get a lot of rest.
To me, it is like basketball or football, if you have “gameday” shoes, you just may have foot problems. Decide what you want to do now, and do that all summer and you should be fine.


Mark Bundick, March 14, 2019 at 11:21 am

KenH and I ride together, and like him, I chased the “cool” footwear and pedals. After falling over one too many times, I switched to the old school, un-cool toe clips and mountain bike shoes. It’s sort of a compromise between hyper-efficency and completely casual. (BTW, my ride is a decidedly old school Trek 520, built like a tank and rides like your grandfather’s old 1975 Cadillac.)

God didn’t build my body for athletics, and as I get older, I care less and less about what people think about how I spend my time or what equipment I do it with. If I’m having fun, and my “stuff” helps me have it, then that’s what I do.


Bob Rausa, March 17, 2019 at 12:27 pm



olddownhiller, March 17, 2019 at 6:42 pm

Seems to me that different folks are happy with a wide variety of footwear. I have ridden all 12 of my RAGBRAIs with Speedplay X pedals and cleats. I chose these as they are very knee friendly with lots of float. These days there are rubber covers that are not removed to ride and do help the “walk ability”. Not the best choice for a long hike but I have not found them to be a problem walking through the pass through towns. Probably a good idea to wear the shoe/pedals that you train in. This works for me.


heknits, March 18, 2019 at 8:48 pm

I’m a big fan of sandals. I use clipless pedals and cycling shoes for my training rides, but have done the ride twice and used sandals both times. Loved them! No worries about them getting soaking wet and because they were SPD, walking around wasn’t a big issue.


bak99504@gmail.com, March 20, 2019 at 9:14 am

My son rides with light shoes and cages. I ride a recumbent trike and have SPD two sided petals. Both work. But recumbent riders do not walk their trikes. Just make sure that whatever footwear you use that they are comfortable and you have great socks.


Biff Baker, March 20, 2019 at 10:39 am

It’s my third ragbri and I’m 62. Sneakers work great. Half the fun of ragbri is walking around unfamiliar towns.


faykilburg, March 23, 2019 at 8:19 pm

You could start with what you have. If you start feeling the pull in your calves or toes going numb or really aching legs there is the traveling vendors where u could purchase bike shoes or riding sandals. Gloves are important. If you have never rode day after day after day you might not know what your body parts are going to feel like. But, don’t worry vendors are there for a reason!


Den, March 24, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Kade: Lots of opinion to wade thru, but there is a very basic concept in bicycling if you want to enjoy your performance at longer distance events. This is regardless of how fast or slow you enjoy riding or how seriously you take yourself as a bicyclist. Take care of your contact points. That means hands, feet and butt. You can wear bowling shoes if you want, but a properly fitted bike shoe with clipless cleats will ultimately serve you best. Go to a reliable bike shop and ask them to show you the different cleat/pedal systems and try on some shoes. If you can’t find a shop with good price and good inventory, then check the web. There are a lot of deals to be had, although the service of a knowledgeable shop makes it worth starting there. Then turn to the web only if you find nothing that works for you. No one mentions touring specific shoes and that would actually be the best alternative for most of us considering the casual ride and frequent towns. But there are mountain bike shoe fans, sandal fans, and some of us still think it is worth it to use full on road shoes even with the regular walking. A good cleat cover helps in that situation. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or look like a dork to your none bike friends on the rail trail back home. But take care of those contact points and you may find yourself enjoying longer and longer rides as a result. Otherwise, be a retro-grouch, minimalist, new bike Fred or any other character you choose to be. But take care of those contact points.


Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 31 total)

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